JOHN Sheridan’s carrot and stick approach to management is keeping the Pilgrims’ play-off dreams alive.Twenty-four hours after suggesting that teenage wideman Nathan Thomas was a little way out of his thinking, the Argyle manager handed the young Geordie his full debut on Tuesday and saw him cap an impressive performance by laying on the first goal by Tyler Harvey in the Pilgrims’ 2-1 victory at Newport.
“I was always going to play him,” said John, who told Nathan of his inclusion only a few hours before the match. “Once he knew, he was ready for the game. He’s a confident lad in himself; he’s probably too confident for a 19-year-old.
“I thought he played a lot better in the second half. I told him to get at people. I thought he expressed himself a little bit more; and he’s got genuine pace.”
John also had praise for central defender Neal Trotman, who had been substituted early on in Argyle’s 1-0 defeat at Burton in their previous match and criticised afterwards.
“I took Neal off at half-time [at Burton]; I thought he was excellent tonight,” said John. “He defended really, really well, and was part of a good, solid team performance.”
With Luke Young and Lewis Alessandra set to return to the squad for Saturday’s home match against fellow play-off hopefuls Oxford United, the Argyle manager has plenty of options going into the final five games of the league campaign.
Lewi has been injured, while Luke was left out of Tuesday and John said: “Youngy understands. Youngy’s been a big part of where we are at the moment. I just felt ‘Give him a little bit of a break’.
“He’ll be back involved on Saturday. I’ve got 19-20 players – Lewi will be back on Saturday – and they are all going to be involved; I need them all.”
Another big Home Park gate is anticipated for the visit of Oxford, who have slipped from top spot just before Christmas to eighth place, one point and one position ahead of Argyle.
“They are on a bad run, but they are still a good team,” said John. “They have got good players for this league and they will still believe they are in [contention for] the play-offs.
“They are above us; it will be a big game. I am very wary of them, but it is an important game for us – we have got to try to win it, like every game we have got left.”